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MS works out a National Unity Government

26 August 2015 05:05 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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''President Sirisena, both as the Leader of the UPFA and the SLFP, met with the party’s elected members in batches on Sunday and discussed the way forward''

''President Maitripala Sirisena cited countering challenges in the international arena, the resolution of the political question and the introduction of a new constitution as the main reasons warranting a national unity government between the two main parties -- the United National Party (UNP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). ''


The UPFA is the political formation led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Formed in 2004, it has now evolved to be a formidable political force ruling the country ever since.President Sirisena, both as the Leader of the UPFA and the SLFP, met with the party’s elected members in batches on Sunday and discussed the way forward. He particularly highlighted these points and emphasized the need for a bilateral approach, at least for two years.  He asked the MPs-elect to accept responsibilities into the government. But a sizable chunk of it against any form of political cohabitation with the UNP on the basis that there is no mandate for it. 



MS permits SLFP MPs in the Opposition if needed
Given the divisive opinion in this respect, the President permitted the UPFA members to make their own choices -- to sit in the Opposition or to take up positions in the government. 

Accordingly, a section of the SLFP, which is the dominant ally of the UPFA, is planning to occupy Opposition benches in Parliament to meet on September 1 for the inaugural session.   The SLFP MPs, loyal to President Sirisena, either for genuine reasons or personal benefits, will hold ministerial responsibilities in the government. Others will throw their weight behind former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and remain in the Opposition.

SLFPers holding posts in the new government would virtually be the faction loyal to President Sirisena, political sources close to the two main parties opine that the President is eager to have his own team in the government, as otherwise, he will be reduced to a mere figure-head without a firm footing in the running of Cabinet affairs.  

Shouldered with the virtual responsibility to remodel the SLFP on his line of thinking, he would choose to build his team with the ultimate aim of obliterating the Rajapaksa-hallmarks in the party.  As things stand now, it is too early to conclude whether the President would make headway in his approach or fall back. 


''Political sources close to the two main parties opine that the President is eager to have his own team in the government, as otherwise, he will be reduced to a mere figure-head without a firm footing in the running of Cabinet affairs.''



UNP wants SLFP as a whole to back, not a faction of it
The UNP, as the party with the single highest number of seats is displeased with the fact that only an SLFP section is extending its cooperation to form the unity government, but not the entire party.

The UNP had received 106 seats at this election. It fell short by seven seats to form the government of its own.    It can now rope in members from the other side and form a government of its own, rather than opting for a national   unity government.  Meanwhile, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has already taken oath as the Prime Minister. 

The UNP fears the SLFP faction in the Opposition   would throw a spanner in the work of the government, as witnessed at times, during the previous six months rule. 



Some UNP MPs want their own government
Also, it is the wish of most elected UNP members to form their own government. For that, according to informed sources, a team of members from the Opposition is willing to join the UNP no matter what their party stands for.   

A political precedence exists in this respect. In 2007, 17 UNP MPs teamed up with the UPFA   government despite the party taking a position otherwise.  The UNP now stands the same opportunity to engineer a defection of MPs from the UPFA and to lure them into its fold for a stable government. 

Let alone all that, the President finally worked out a national unity government. He insisted that the Ministers representing either party should take oath on the same day. Accordingly, September 2 was chosen as the day of swearing in of the new Cabinet. 

These SLFPers, want to be in the Opposition trying to block the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) from becoming the main Opposition. The TNA swept the board in the North and some parts of the East at the election and won 16 seats. The party is eyeing the Opposition Leader’s post in the House.   It has evoked a new sense of fear and consternation within sections of the SLFP/UPFA. A team of UPFA MPs has already made representation to the President in this regard. 

Already the TNA members have started airing out their aspiration for it.  First, the Party’s Wanni district MP-elect Selvam Adaikkalanathan  mentioned it at a meeting in the North.  

Anyhow, the President has already consented to the move by some of his party’s MPs to sit in the Opposition if necessary.  Then, who will hold the Opposition Leader’s post in Parliament? 

It is indicated that one of the SLFP members in the Opposition would be picked for the post after endorsement by the Central Committee of the party.
 President Sirisena and his nominees are calling the shots in the Central Committee. Then, it is likely that the opportunity would not be open for someone close to MR as antagonism has even worsened after the General Election.  In eventuality, the SLFP will have an Opposition Leader who corroborates with the government,   including some of its members. 

The purported dual role in the government and the Opposition will be identical in some form to the six months rule that existed after the January 8 Presidential Election.  During the period, the UNP formed the minority government with the backing of UPFA members as well. Alongside, the UPFA retained the Opposition leadership. It was seen as a bizarre political phenomenon with the UPFA being part of the government and the Opposition at the same time.  
All in all, the UNP has a bigger stake in the next Parliament though it falls short of the required majority. 


''The President finally worked out a national unity government. He insisted that the Ministers representing either party should take oath on the same day. Accordingly, September 2 was chosen as the day of swearing in of the new Cabinet''


President to alienate UPFA allies
After the General Elections, the President is making efforts in all directions to wrest control of SLFP-led UPFA.  As visible from his interactions and actions, he appears to be perturbed that SLFP, a dominant political force is held to ransom by its alliance partners.       The President turned furious at a meeting when Colombo district MP-elect  Bandula Gunawardane  suggested that he consults the alliance partners in taking important decisions. 

Enraged by this suggestion, the President shot back at Gunawardane with a verbal barrage.  The President remarked that the alliance partners had got an undue advantage from the traditional SLFP vote base and said these allies had secured a disproportionately high number of seats, using votes traditionally with SLFP. 

It is indicated in this manner that the President is contemplating the alienation of SLFP allies to rebuild the party under his vision and mission. Legally, it is impossible to disband the UPFA. But, once the SLFP is taken out, the UPFA’s collective political clout will diminish. 

The alliance partners, including the likes of Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), National Freedom Front (NFF) and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya, have taken note of it. For the moment, they seem to be adopting the ‘wait and see policy’, as nothing has been pronounced in clear-cut terms as of now.

In fact, they seem to be giving mind to the formation of a new political alliance, depending upon the development of political circumstances with the passage of time.

At this election, one political reality emerged clear: politics is the art of the possible. Likewise, it looks as though one has to wait for opportunities in politics rather than trying to create them artificially. The UNP had to remain in the Opposition for the last 20 years barring the two-year period between 2002 and 2004. Finally,   the opportunity dawned for it. Its attempts to create opportunities   did not yield.

Also, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s backers attempted to work out an opportunity artificially without waiting it to be evolved. So, he failed. Had he waited for the opportunity to evolve, he might have made a successful comeback.  
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